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Trial for 3 murder suspects continued

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Defendants in a 2017 murder case were in Jones County Superior Court with their attorneys for an update of the progression of the case and to possibly set a trial date.

Donald Marquise Hardwick was killed Nov. 13, 2017, and the arrests of Cameren Myles Banks, Justerrious Shyheim Canty and Jaqualan Desean Clark happened in December of 2017. Banks and Canty were arrested Dec. 4, 2017 and Clark Dec. 19, 2017.

Banks is represented by Melvin Raines II, Canty by Adrian Patrick and Clark by Sarah Flack.

The defendants and their attorneys were in court Sept. 5 for a case status update. Clark, who was the last of the three to be arrested, was also the last to be brought into the courtroom.

As the other two stood with their attorneys and waited, Jones County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Ed Bailey told the court that Clark refused to come into the courtroom without his attorney.

Flack then left the courtroom and returned a few minutes later with Bailey and her client.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin told the court that the trial of the three defendants was number two on the October trial calendar.

She said the state announced ready, but she also said she had provided the defense attorneys with 700 pages of new discovery Aug. 14.

Baskin said much of the information were interviews of people connected to the defendants before and after their arrests.

“We held this information as long as we could for fear of retribution to those interviewed,” she said. “But, in all fairness, I understand why the defense may not be ready.”

Raines said he needed time to understand the new technology of a portion of the discovery.

The prosecutor explained that was new forensic testing by the FBI that identified glass found in the car of one of the defendants as coming from the victim’s back window.

Superior Court Judge Brenda Trammell presided over the status hearing. She asked the attorneys what they had done with the discovery since receiving it on the 14th .

Raines said not much because his client did not have the resources for an expert.

“If we are given more time, I believe family members can come up with the additional funds,” he said.

Patrick said he gave the pages to his client to review. He added that it takes time to read 700 pages.

“We have more issues than the glass. We have the issue of severance,” he said. “The statements bring up a group issue, which is more significant than the test.”

He asked for a continuance of the case.

Baskin said a large amount of discovery was given to defense attorneys in April. She said there is a lot of information because of the two agencies and 13 officers working together on the case.

“There were two jump drives in addition to the 700 pages. It’s a large case because it is primarily circumstantial,” she said.

Flack stated that she had been on leave and had just received the discovery. She said she was in the process of getting it transcribed for her client. The attorney added that the FBI report implicates her client.

She said any expert hired by the defense would need photos of what the FBI compared.

Baskin agreed to get the requested photos to the defense. She said the case would involve 50-60 witnesses, including an FBI expert, and a date was needed well in advance to coordinate that.

She added that the trial would take at a least a full five-day week.

Trammell asked if there was any possibility of being ready in October and received firm noes from both sides.

The judge suggested the first week of January but everyone appeared to agree they could be ready in February. No firm date was set but Trammell suggested looking at trial weeks as soon as possible.

Baskin asked the defense to have all their motions filed by the end of October and all agreed.

Case background

The 911 call was received by the Jones County Sheriff’s Office at 1:35 a.m., Nov. 13, 2017, reporting the fatal shooting that occurred at Northside Villas Apartments in Gray. There were no witnesses to the shooting, but the report of the murder indicated that Hardwick died of multiple bullet wounds that came from two different guns.

The investigation of the case was a team effort with the Gray Police Department, Jones County Sheriff’s Office, the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Marshal Fugitive Task Force.

In addition to the arrests of Banks, Canty and Clark, seven additional individuals were also indicted in the case. All ten were indicted Aug. 6, 2018.

Banks, Canty and Clark were indicted for malice murder, felony murder, burglary, home invasion and armed robbery.

Darius Rashawn Hunt, Tilisha Sherell Sanford, Kayla Danielle Greene, Azevius Jamal Shinholster, Daquan Jamalcolm Perry, R’Jay Deatrell Simmons and Chameika Yavise Crumedy were indicted for the felony charge of making false statements to law enforcement officers during their investigation of the murder.